Camp can have a dramatic impact on your ministry. It becomes a concentrated time on your yearly ministry calendar where, if done well by you and your group, impacts the other 51-weeks of the year (not to mention the eternity of a young person that meets Jesus for the first time). I want to offer five reasons to have camp as a part of your annual ministry strategy.
JESUS WENT ON RETREAT. SO SHOULD WE.
Jesus is always a great example to follow. As you read the scriptures, you see Him often retreating from the crowds and the “normal” flow of life. He goes away, and spends intimate time with His followers or with His Father. That model still has great value. When teenagers remove themselves from the distractions of their everyday lives, they tend to hear the Lord more clearly. Spending focused time in healthy Biblical community helps them understand the call to serve, and to make the truth of the Gospel known.
Spending focused time in healthy Biblical community helps them understand the call to serve, and to make the truth of the Gospel known.
STUDENTS ARE CHANGED AT CAMP.
Every summer, all summer long, I get to the end of a camp and hear youth workers talking about all God did in the life of their group, and in their students. Some students come to Christ for the first time (seeing students going from death to life never gets old). And there are countless other decisions that come in these intimate times with God: decisions to take spiritual disciplines serious, decisions to live a life of purity, decisions to honor their mother and father, decision about all sorts of things that bring freedom.
Camp is about lifting up the name of Jesus, and letting the Spirit do what only He can do. I am the product of an experience at camp that literally altered my life’s trajectory. One moment with God at camp put a life of faith and serving God in motion. I imagine that’s likely true for many of you, as well. God often uses these simple moments away from the normal to reveal the good and perfect plan He has in store for a young person’s life. Camp truly provides an opportunity for a catalytic experience with God.
STUDENTS LEARN THE GOSPEL, AND ARE CHALLENGED TO MAKE THE GOSPEL KNOWN.
Well, at least they SHOULD. These two simple truths should mark any camp you chose for your students. The Gospel should be clearly presented in a way that your students can understand (if any of us can really understand the amazing grace that was extended to all people when Jesus took on the sin due us on the cross). This only happens when the life and work of Jesus is lifted up as students study the Word and worship together.
The Gospel should be clearly presented in a way that your students can understand
If camp does not have speakers that are preaching Jesus and pointing students toward the Bible, then you need to consider other options. The Word should always be the foundation of our preaching, not an illustration. Camp allows for a high concentration of it. And secondly, camps should not simply be making consumers of the Gospel, but if we are disciple-makers, the camp experience should be creating conduits of the Gospel. It is about “getting” it and then “giving” it away. This at it’s core is what Christ called all of His followers to be about.
CAMP ALLOWS YOU DEDICATED TIME TO SPEND WITH STUDENTS.
Even if your church is highly supportive of you being out of the office and where students are, likely that time is still limited. A lunch here, a ball game there, or maybe a quick weekend event allows for some connection time with your students. But you likely often spend your days being administers of the Gospel rather than ministers. This is most true when we have a bunch of events on our calendar.
Camp allows for you to have a dedicated week to step away from all the distractions that you too have as a minister. It allows for you to take the time to sit with a student over a meal in the cafeteria at a slower pace. It allows for time on a bench around campus talking through spiritual disciplines with a young person after they have spent a few days of concentrated time in the Word. It gives opportunities to counsel and talk with students after they have responded publicly.
It allows for your days to close each evening standing in front of your students reflecting and highlighting all that God has done in them and through them. Those times don’t just naturally come during the school year. They come with strategy and focus.
CAMP HAS A GREAT ROI (Return On Investment)
When considering the value of attending camp as a part of your ministry strategy, one of the big discussions that often comes up is finances. This thought can come from multiple people, including your up-line at church that asks about the return on putting aside limited budget dollars for camp in the form of transportation needs, scholarships, covering adult chaperones’ cost, and so on. Or maybe parents that wonder, “why does a camp cost so much”? Maybe you even find yourself evaluating what it means to be away from home for one more week, or if camp is really worth the work. A great camp experience should not break the budget nor break you.
While you should respect the budget realities that most families, and likely your church faces, if you want to get growth you have to put out seed. No one will find success growing if they simply water the mud. You need to be wise in where you put out seed and how much, but the seed isessential for growth. Great camp experiences just allow for a lot of seed to be scattered in the life of your students in a highly concentrated period. Growth has to be the result of the time and resources spent to have any worthwhile return. If that is not happening, then something must change. But if camp is done well and used well, the return will be plentiful. It will become one of the major spiritual markers on your annual calendars. You will see students come to know Christ, and transformed into new creations before you very eyes. Your church will feel it, your community will feel it and in time our world will feel it.
One of the great things about being a youth minister or youth worker right now, is there are countless great camps out there that will allow you to accomplish all five of these reasons to have camp as a strategic part of your annual ministry year.